By Bijay Kumar Minj
Church people in India have criticized a pro-Hindu party’s objection to extending special reservations for Christians of low caste origin.
“It is nothing new to us, communal forces are always against reservation for the dalit Christians,” Father Cosmon Arokiaraj, secretary of the Indian Catholic bishops’ commission for tribal and dalit communities said today.
Father Arokiaraj was responding to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, Indian people’s party) that asked President Pratibha Patil not to extend reservation to dalit groups among Christians and Muslims.
In a memorandum to the deputy commissioner of Udupi district in Karnataka state, the BJP urged Patil to reject the report of a government commission that favored reservation for these groups.
BJP says extending reservations to Christians and Muslims would affect dalit groups among Buddhist, Hindu and Sikh religions who now enjoy these benefits.
Father Arokiaraj says the BJP stand was expected, but the Church would continue its six-decade struggle to get these benefits for dalit Christians.
Christian groups want the statutory rights to boost the socioeconomic advancement of their dalit brethren.
About 70 percent of Indian Christians are of dalit origin, according to some studies.
The Indian constitution provides special seats in legislative houses, jobs and places in educational institutions for Buddhist, Hindu and Sikh dalits.
However, Christians and Muslims are denied these rights on the pretext that their religions do not recognize the caste system.
Christians argue this violates the constitution which grants equal rights to all citizens.